Archive for July 5th, 2011

A piece of meat

5 July 2011

By Juliana Adelman

Today I sat down to an unexpectedly exciting read.  In 1891 Daniel Tallerman published a slim volume entitled “Railway abattoirs” and other papers relating to meat distribution.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but Tallerman was a gold mine for me.  Finally here was someone who wrote about the livestock and meat trade as though the reader would know NOTHING!  Frustratingly, it wasn’t just the primary source literature on meat that assumed levels of knowledge I did not have.  Even historians seemed to think that I would know something beyond the fact that beef and pork come from different animals.  I was beginning to think I would have to apprentice myself to a butcher for a week (although that’s probably not a bad idea either).

But why oh why should I care about a piece of meat?  By the 1890s, Ireland was exporting over one million animals annually to feed booming British towns and most of them passed through Dublin.  Meanwhile, in Chicago, refrigeration and the disassembly line had turned a cattle distribution centre into a ‘dead meat’ one almost overnight.  American meat was even shipped to Britain.  [The image is from the Chicago stockyards]. Read More